Racing Louisville forward Emina Ekic has recalled her surreal NWSL debut last year, which saw her play against and take home the shirt of her idol, Marta.
The 22-year-old was the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft after an impressive college career at the University of Louisville. Chosen by the team that had just launched in the same city, it would continue her soccer journey in her home city, too.
Ekic’s first competitive game would come just a few months later, when Racing took on the Orlando Pride, a team led by Brazil icon Marta, the player widely regarded as the greatest ever to grace the women’s game.
What has been said?
Speaking to GOAL on All of US: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Show about her first NWSL season, Ekic said: “If I'm being honest with you, I was probably starstruck all last year.
“It started to wear off towards the end. It's worn off now. But I remember my first game and Marta actually talked to me. I love Marta. I grew up watching her. She was my idol. I love the way she plays.
“She stopped in the middle of the game, she just looked me up and down and she asked me how old I was. Because she's like, 'You look very young'. I was like, 'Yeah, I'm 21'. Then she ran off and I had a double take and I was like, 'Oh, I need to go follow her. She's going to get the ball!'
“I honestly didn't think I would get to play with many of [my idols]. I thought they would be done or retired, but it's really cool that they're still around.”
Ekic would get to swap shirts with Marta at full time too. “I got her to sign it as well,” she said. “I have it on a hanger, but I need to get it framed.”
‘To play for the USWNT has always been a goal’
It wasn’t possible for Ekic to dream of playing NWSL soccer in her home city when she was growing up but, on All of US, she talked about the two big goals she had - playing for the University of Louisville and the U.S. women’s national team.
Lots of young players in top form in the NWSL have been called into camp for the latter by head coach Vlatko Andonovski in recent months, and that is something is the Racing Louisville forward says is “very motivating” for her.
“The roster right now is super young and it's been a goal of mine ever since I could remember,” she added. “It was always the University of Louisville and then the national team. It was just those two things me and my dad would aim for.
“I definitely have opportunities to play with the Bosnia national team as well, which is really cool, and I would love to get over in Europe and experience that and see what it's like, but I am super excited for the opportunities that I have here and what's to come.
“I want to play for the U.S. and finally get my chance and get to that level.”
How to listen to All of US: The U.S. Women's Soccer Show
As well as the latest episode, listeners can go back and catch plenty of exclusive interviews from previous weeks.
Past guests on the show include Ekic's Louisville team-mate and England international Ebony Salmon, as well as more of the USWNT's exciting young prospects, such as Lyon star Catarina Macario and San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma.